Tag Archives: Spam

Marika Fruscio Spam Spreading on Facebook

A new Facebook scam is underway and it is more enticing than earlier one’s I have seen. The scam basically is about an Italian journalist; Marika Fruscio showing her breasts on Italian TV!.

Marika Fruscio Scam

If you think that this is something you want to watch, I would advise you to say away since there is no such video and you will basically be spamming your friends by liking the page automatically and posting it to your wall.

A quick search on shows that the scam is definitely enticing because tons of people are clicking on it already. Rest assured you aren’t getting to look at any videos showing breasts, so please don’t click on it.

Avoiding such scams is not easy on Facebook, but you can always follow caution. Clif had written a nice post on How To Avoid Facebook LIfeJacking Scams, it is definitely a worthwhile read to find and spot such scams.

Update: There is apparently some video on , however, the link on Facebook is an actual scam.

WARNING: HCG Diet Spam Worm Spreading on Twitter

A new worm has spread on and is spreading like wildfire. Users are spreading messages saying "Have you heard of HCG diet? AMAZING AND IT WORKS, I lost 2lbs in the last 3 days [link redacted]" to their friends.

Twitter HCG Diet Spam Worm

This is a spam message so please do not click on the message. A quick Twitter search shows that an number of people have been affected by this and the number of updates that are coming through are astonishing.

First of all don’t click on this link or you might just spread the work yourself. Second, tell your friends who have posted this update to delete the message and reset their passwords if possible.

Update: The website in question is a landing page for some sort of dietary medicine. However, the page has scam written all over it so don’t click on anything. I am trying to investigate on how this worm is spreading and will update this post shortly with more information.

Update 2: If resetting your password does not help, it might be because of an app that has been added to your account. Learn more about revoking permissions for Twitter apps.

More to come…

(h/t @gaberivera)

SMSAssassin: Crowd Sourced SMS Spam Filter Developed by Students in India

Email spam might be dropping, but that doesn’t mean that spam is about to go away. It’s just that the spammers have found new, and possibly more fruitful, vehicles for spreading junk. This includes search engines, twitter, and of course, SMS. In spite of the establishment of the NDNC (National Do Not Call) registry, SMS spam is rapidly increasing in India. I personally consider SMS spam to be much more of a nuisance than email spam, simply because, although there are sophisticated spam filters available to tackle email spam, when it comes to SMS spam we are mostly helpless. Manual blacklisting of repeat offenders is the best most of us can do.

For separating spam from ham, most email filters utilize two techniques:

Heuristic Approach: The software learns to distinguish spam from experience by learning from the content of already processed messages.
Bayesian Approach: It’s a statistical approach that employs a probabilistic model to determine if a message is spam, based on pre-defined classifiers.

Unfortunately, these methods alone are not very effective when it comes to tackling SMS spam. The short length of messages, coupled with the use of abbreviations and vernacular languages make it very tough for machine learning algorithms to work with acceptable accuracy.

Now, a team of students at the Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology (Delhi) are trying to tackle this problem by employing the intelligence of the crowd. The team lead by Dr. Ponnurangam Kumaraguru, includes Vinayak Naik, Kuldeep Yadav, Atul Goyal, Ashish Gupta, Dipesh Kumar Singh, and Rushil Khurana.

For developing the initial proof-of-concept, the team ran an incentivized crowd-sourcing scheme in the IIIT-D campus (organized through Facebook) to collect sample spam messages. Pictured below is the tag cloud of the initial database of 4,318 messages, out of which nearly half were spam.

SMS-Assassin-Accuracy
Tag Cloud for SPAM (left) and HAM (right)

Some of the interesting observations made by the team from the initial training set are:

  • Almost all messages including an URL are spam.
  • Certain special characters like /’ are frequently present in spam messages.
  • Typically word count of spam messages is higher. Also the average word length in legitimate messages is shorter due to the presence of abbreviations.

SMS-Assassin-Accuracy
SMSAssassin Architecture

For spam filtering, two techniques were explored by the research group Bayesian and SVM (Support vector machine). SVM is a supervised machine learning technique commonly used for classification. With SpamAssassin, Bayesian approach yielded lower than desired accuracy with spam classification; however, SVM was too computationally heavy for low and mid-range mobile devices, and it had a lower success rate with classification of hams. Dr. Ponnurangam’s team is currently working on an online module that will run a pre-trained SVM based classifier on the server and pass on the results to the app.

SMS-Assassin-Accuracy
SMSAssassin Accuracy

A Symbian app, which will offer full featured spam protection on mobile phones with or without data connection, is currently in the final stages of development. The choice of Symbian as the launch platform might surprise some; however, the decision was likely inspired by the ground situation in India. Nokia still has a significant presence in India, and it dominates the mid-range segment. In terms of volume, I suspect Android is still quite far behind Symbian. That being said, an Android app is planned, and will possibly be released later in the summer. In the meanwhile you can check out the research paper for getting a better understanding of the underlying technology.

Forget Email, Spammers Are Looking Forward to the Mobile Platform Now

With the average computer user getting more tech savvy each day and the average mobile user just catching up, spammers are seeing the mobile platform as a viable option for expanding their notorious business.

email-spam

Awareness against spam has gone up over the last one year and as a direct result, email spam has gone down visibly. As ZDNet says in this post, only 80% of the current email traffic is spam. Although the figure is nothing to be proud of, it is a vast improvement over earlier spam levels. So much so, that this is supposedly the lowest spam we have seen after 2007. However, in the last quarter of 2010, mobile spams increased up to 46 percent when compared with the fourth quarter of 2009.

The two primary platforms that are victims of mobile spam are undoubtedly Symbian, because it is so popular and Android, because it is so vulnerable. A quote from McAfee as it appears on ZDNet says,

In the past three months, we saw the lowest spam volumes since 2007, but at the same time, we identified attacks on new devices such as smartphones using the Android operating system. Mobile malware and threats have been around for years, but we must now accept them as part of the mobile landscape, both in awareness and deployment.

Spam can be fought with simple awareness and now that businesses are becoming more prominent on the mobile platform too, mobile users need to get aware against spams immediately. However, a comment on the same post at ZDNet has led to the question if these reports are bloated. The comment is quoted below.

This is like pharmaceutical companies not releasing cures for diseases but just symptomatic medications because you can make more money. If your entire business model relies on there being bad stuff out there you want people to think there is lots of bad stuff out there. Biased doesn’t begin to describe.

Matt Cutts: New Algorithm Will Reduce Google Search Spam, Expect Better Results Soon

A few days ago Google gave some hints on how Google web spam team is changing the way web pages are ranked and trying to implement a redesigned “document level classifier” in Google search algorithm.  This whole saga of Google search spam got ignited by Jess Atwood’s post at CodingHorror; so if you have missed the details, read that article and our response article on the issue.

Earlier today, Google Engineer Matt Cutts announced that a new algorithmic change has been launched which will rank the content scraping sites lower in search results. Hence, users are more likely to see those sites higher in search results, who wrote the original content.

Matt said that this change was very much  targeted  and geared towards improving the overall experience of users.

Note that Matt says “lower in search results” and not that these scraped content will never appear in a search result page.

Let’s quickly take an example.

We announced an Apple Ipad Giveaway on 23rd december 2010, which received 254 responses and was pretty much successfull.

Some websites thought it’s wise to scrap that content and put their own “mix” to the scraped material. They changed the Title, modified the URL (thinking that adding the author’s name might just work) and added the same sentences, keywords over and over in the meta description. The result is something like this

The first search result points to this site (thanks Google for your algo).

My point is: Some users will still click the second and third links and arrive to that scraped website who have no original content. Because they are not organizing the Giveaway and can never give an Apple iPad on behalf of Techie Buzz. ( Those who need proof, can read this research article on “Eye tracking in  search results” (PDF), learn the facts and then comment on this post).

So what happens is that some users arrive to the scraped website, can’t find what they are looking for and quit. The will simply go elsewhere.

The Result: We lose those prospective readers who are searching our website,  just because Google showed the scraped sites on search result pages. Agree the number of such readers is way less, but it’s never ZERO.

Our Suggestion To Google Web Spam Team

Don’t show the scraped sites at all. Never. I mean “Why ?”

Google Engineers can easily judge whether the content is an exact photocopy of the source website or not, so there is no point in showing these sites on any of the search result pages. Not even on the 99th page.

Learn from Bing

Surprisingly, the same search at Bing.com shows only one spam link (third one).

This is just an example and I am not saying that Bing is better than Google. But as you can see – Bing shows less number of scraped sites, when you consider a long tail of search.

@Google: We are Praying for better search results.

Domain Filtering, Coming Soon to A Google Search Near You

Discussions on Google search spams have been making rounds on the Internet for quite some days now. Google search results are full of spam and the results are all gamed. This has led many people to Bing search, which is nearly spam free. Seeing this alarming situation, Google has responded twice this month.

no-spam

In the first reply, it has said that Google search is better than what it was 10 years back. That is surely an improvement. The product quality has improved indeed, most products improves over 10 years. However, seeing that spam indeed is a problem, Google has started a second reply, which is also an interaction. You can find this discussion on Hacker News and it is directly from Matt Cutts.

The discussion says,

“As pure webspamhas decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to content farms,which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. “

Content farms are a real trouble for Google search results. Further, in this discussion, you will see that one user has asked Matt if there can be filtering of results based on domain blacklisting. Thankfully, Matt has hinted towards this feature being incorporated in future and this will put these content farms out of business.

Another interesting thing that Matt announced in this thread is that Google will do away with clones of websites, who do nothing more than aggregate and present exact copied content with a simple link at the bottom. At techie-buzz, we come across at least two content scrapers on most weekdays. The real deal with content scrapers is that, if their site is indexed before yours, you get punished and negative rankings in SERP. Beware content scrapers; things are going to get ugly.

(Image via: Elementsintime)

Beware Of Free WordPress Themes On The Internet

When I started blogging, I didn’t have a custom theme and relied on themes which were available on the Internet. I did have my favorite WordPress related blogs which listed out some really good themes and I usually downloaded themes from them.

Unsafe Free WordPress Themes

Every once in a while I also preferred to use Google to search for "Free WordPress Themes". Now that I have my own custom built theme, I do not usually look for free themes anymore. However, many new WordPress users do use Google to find new themes for their blog.

The most common keyword for searching themes is "Free WordPress Themes". Now, this will land you thousands of results, but are they safe? Well, the WPMU blog did a comprehensive research on sites which showed up in Google search results and 9 out of the 10 top websites had Trojans or hidden code in the themes you downloaded from them.

The lone site which did not have any problem was the Official WordPress Themes Repository. The research done by the WPMU folks is a real eye-opener and I believe that many users wouldn’t even bother to look as closely as they did. To top it, many of the available themes are actually stolen and copyrighted from premium theme publishers.

I am experienced and advanced WordPress user, so I can figure these things out. However, millions of users out there are not as tech savvy as me and may be gullible to installing these so called "Free WordPress Themes".

The best thing we could do to stop this menace is to educate new users that it is best to download themes from the official WordPress repository as the themes there are free and also do not have sponsored links or Trojans. Remember, beautiful themes are not always free, they can ruin your website.

Last but not the least kudos to the WPMU folks for running such a research, it was an eye-opener indeed.

New Facebook Scam: Girl Killed Herself After Dad Posted On Wall

Well, welcome to another new scam. This one is also as enticing as the past few one’s I have written about. But it looks like someone is just taking this scam to a new level altogether, saying that a girl committed suicide after her dad posted on her Facebook wall.

Facebook OMG Dad Killed Daughter Scam

This is not surprising at all, if you have read or seen the revolving images spam or the fake like button scam or the who checked your Facebook profile scam or the Free iPad test scam or the Cashreport Scam.

Spam Girl Killed Herself Facebook App

Once again, the page for this link leads to a Facebook app, which is nothing but an image with some clever comments et al, however, clicking on it will make you like that page and post a comment on your wall as seen above. Don’t click on anything and let your friends know about it too so that they can delete that update and not infect anyone else.

How can you avoid this? No matter how much we tell people to avoid fake warnings and hoaxes, they still manage to surprise us. We wish we could reach out to 500 million users. Just don’t click on links which look "sexy", "enticing" or "sounds really unreal". Many of these scams just take on human curiosity and succeed big time. So stay curious but don’t click on links which look enticing. If you do, you are just spreading the virus further. Remember, everything that glitters is not GOLD.

Facebook is a huge service, but things like these spoil everything. The amount of Scam and spams that get through to Facebook is astonishing. It is high time that Facebook does something about it. I don’t want to see 50% of my friends updates to be scam or spam posts in 2011.

Hey Google, Here is How You Can Make Google News Spam Free

Google has been removing publishers from Google News index for vague reasons because of new policy reviews. This was confirmed by a recent tweet from @mattcutts where he said:

@AuctionBytes I’ll mention this. The news folks are actually starting a nice crackdown on low-quality/spammy news sources.

So what is low-quality and spammy according to Google? Search Engine Land has an answer for that where they got an update from a Google News spokesperson who said “Yes, we recently removed a number of websites from Google News that we determined were not following Google’s quality guidelines”

Google News Spam

So what exactly are those quality guidelines? According to several forum posts on the Google News forum, quality websites are those who write original content. And what is original content? A post on a site which does not reference anyone else through links or otherwise. So sites which link to other sources provide low-quality news?

Google News Spam Gaming Websites

In my experience, one of the biggest spamming in news occurs for trending topics in Google search. Several hundred websites follow these trends and then post accordingly about them. Now the problem here is not those websites, it is with Google who display “Google News listings” above organic listings in Google search results.

Anyone with a bit of brain can game Google and write original pieces of news without attributing anyone and get tons of traffic. The throw in your face news results acts like a tonic for spammy publishers to push content and game the system.

I have been counting thousands of sites which do this everyday along with posting duplicate content on the same topic to get on top of the listings once they have been forced down by another site. This was a known fact but was more in news after CNET and Search Engine Land wrote about it.

This is one of the biggest reasons why sites which are originally good become spammy after they have tasted the traffic dose from Google. My one and only suggestion to Google is to not display Google News results in search results. Give everyone a level playing field and you will automatically see less spam in your index.

Of course, Google wants to do all the real-time fancy stuff too, so just display the Google News results there or post a link to the Google News search or provide it as an option, that too opt-in and not opt-out.

Once Google does this, we will all see less spam in the index. Removing websites from listings is just a way of telling publishers that we control the internet and will do as we want without caring about you. Sadly that is the attitude Google has right now.

Orkut Underground Community Behind Spamming Facebook

Recently I wrote a post about how a spam had come across where people were told about “Really cool Facebook   revolving images” and to “Checkout 360 rotate effect on images”. The exploit was run through JavaScript which user’s themselves went and posted in their address bar, which then caused their profiles to post on their friends wall with the message.

Orkut Underground Community Facebook Attack

However, the attack was started by an underground community which also has a presence on Facebook (Thanks Tony via Comment). As you can see from the image above, this community is all about business and about a numerous amounts of hacks.

Though the attack was not harmful at all, it was definitely malicious and spread like a malware. Orkut and Facebook are two competing social networking platforms, so it was really not surprising. However, Google does have to rein in such communities and clamp down on them if they want to be really realistic about being competitive.

Quite recently members of 4Chan and Tumblr went after each other and took each other down too, so is rivalry brewing between users who are loyal to a particular website? I think so.

I have contacted both Facebook and Google/Orkut for their response on this, will update this post once they respond.

Update: Google responded back to me and have promised to look into the matter and take appropriate actions. I will update this post when there is more to share.